By Sadia Dehlvi
31 August, 2012
As the rains lash Delhi after a hot and parched July, I look out at the lush green trees and thank God for the mercy of rain. Water is as an integral part of Islam, as a source of growth, sustenance of the earth and puri?cation of the body.
Among verses that adorn the Quran are, “And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water” (25:48) and “Know that the Heavens and the Earth were joined together as one, then We parted them and made from water every living thing”. (21:30) In the holy book, God speaks of creating rivers and oceans as a means for us to facilitate transportation. Rains, fountains, rivers and oceans are mentioned throughout the Quran as a symbol of Allah’s mercy and benevolence to mankind.
Islam views depopulating floods as a symbol of God’s wrath. The waters of the flood were a part of God’s revelation to Prophet Noah. The survival of Noah’s Ark is seen God’s mercy. One of Noah’s vain sons drowned and was swept away by a tsunami-like wave. Hence, agitated water is a seen as a symbol of God’s anger.
God’s mercy is expressed by the thunder that usually precedes the rain. Water is also a symbol of paradise, which is described as a place with fountains and abundantly flowing rivers.
Quenching the thirst of people is an act that is greatly rewarded by God. Prophet Mohammed once said to his wife Ayesha, “The day you give water to people out of charity, especially when they are in dire need of it, or when people are suffering in the dry season due to scarcity of water, you will find great reward with Allah.” In Islam, denying water to someone is seen as one of the worst things to do.
Many sayings of Prophet Mohammed with regard to conservation and fair distribution of water are found in Islamic jurisprudence where the right to water is extended to all human beings, crops, animals, in fact all of God’s creation. The Prophet famously said, “Men are co-owners in three things — water, pastures and fire.”
He condemned any waste of water, even if water was present in abundance and warned that God would apprehend those who wasted water or damaged resources. Even in times of war, the wells of the opposing armies were not allowed to be poisoned by the Muslim armies unlike the customary practice among some Arab clans. The Prophet advised a buffer zone around water bodies to prevent their pollution.
Water has been a dominant theme in Islamic cosmology, art, architecture and poetry. That is why we find fountains and gardens around the monuments of Muslim emperors and verses from the Quran relating to the abundance of water inscribed in beautiful calligraphy on the walls of architectural wonders, including the Taj Mahal. Conservation of water is not just ethical but an act of worship.